Excerpt from The Art of Detection by Laurie R. King, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Art of Detection

A Novel of Suspense

By Laurie R. King

The Art of Detection
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  • Hardcover: May 2006,
    368 pages.
    Paperback: May 2007,
    496 pages.

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ONE

Earlier that morning, the call had come while Inspector Kate Martinelli of the San Francisco Police Department was in the middle of a highly volatile negotiation.

"I’ll hurt myself," the person on the other side of the room threatened.

"Now, that’s no good." Kate’s response employed the voice of patient reason that she had clung to for the last few minutes, as she desperately wished that the official negotiator would return and take command.

"Yes it is good." Her opponent saw with crystal clarity that self-destruction was a powerful weapon against Kate.

"Now, think about it, sweetie. If you hurt yourself, it’s going to hurt."

The mop of curly yellow hair went still as the green eyes narrowed in thought, and Kate’s soul contracted with the weird mixture of stifled laughter and heart-wrenching submission that had welled up inside ten thousand times over the past three years and ten months: The child was so like her mother — her looks, her intelligence, her innate sensitivity — she might have been a clone. Kate pushed the sensation away from her throat and said, still reasonable, "We’d all be sad if you were hurt, but you would be the one that was hurting. Now, if you let me lift you down from there, we’ll talk about whether you’re old enough and careful enough to play with those things."

"I’m careful," the child insisted.

"You come down, and then we’ll talk about it," Kate repeated. A good negotiator only retreated so far, then stood firm.

It worked. Nora’s chubby little arms went out and Kate moved quickly forward before her daughter tumbled off the high shelf. The arms clung to her fiercely, giving lie to the small person’s declaration of fearlessness; Kate’s arms clung just as hard.

Then she set the child firmly down and bent to look directly into those large, bright eyes, arranging her face so she would look very serious. "Nora, you must never do that again. It really would make me very, very sad if you hurt yourself falling down."

"And Mamalee."

"Yes, and Mama Lee, too." In fact, Kate was wondering if it might even be possible to negotiate her way into an agreement with Nora that Lee not be told about this little episode, but voices in the hallway and the sounds of the front door, followed by the approach of Lee’s uneven footsteps, told her that it wasn’t going to happen.

And indeed, the moment Lee cleared the doorway Nora popped out from behind Kate and informed her mother, "I climbed up high and Mamakay said that if I comed down we’d talk about if I could play with the dollies."

"I had to pee," Kate explained guiltily. "Thirty seconds, and when I came out the little monkey was up on the sideboard."

There ensued a protracted discussion as to the nature of trust, which was Lee’s current teaching concept, and Kate had to admit, the child seemed to follow most of what her PhD, psychotherapist mother had to say on the matter. After she’d put her two cents’ worth in, telling Lee about Nora’s willingness to harm herself if it got her the delicate Russian nesting dolls, the discussion turned to the evils of blackmail. That, however, seemed to exhaust the child’s patience, and she interrupted to demand that she be given the dolls.

"Not today," Lee said firmly. And over the protest, she explained, "If you hadn’t climbed up high after them, if you’d just asked us about it, we might have said yes. But because you didn’t, you’re going to have to wait until tomorrow."

It was scary, Kate reflected not for the first time, how reasonable the child was: She pouted for a count of five, then allowed Lee to take her hand and lead her to the kitchen for a discussion of the weekend itinerary. Kate watched the two blond heads, the two slim bodies, the two sets of unreliable legs — one pair made so by youth, the other by a bullet — as her partner and their daughter settled in to discuss the relative lunchtime merits of turkey versus peanut butter.

Excerpted from The Art of Detection by Laurie R. King Copyright © 2006 by Laurie R. King. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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